Residents need emergency rental assistance in a big way right now. Last fiscal year the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) blew through all of its funding–$43 million–in just five months. This fiscal year, when the ERAP portal opened in October, the website initially crashed because so many residents were trying to submit applications, and then closed after receiving 3,578 applications in less than seven days.
We cannot take away funding from a program helping residents avoid eviction and homelessness. I worked with Council Chairman Mendelson last fiscal year to direct an additional $33 million in federal funding to ERAP so we could help more people after it ran out of funding. However, the Mayor didn’t reopen the ERAP portal last fiscal year, and recently submitted a request that the Council reprogram $20.6 million of those ERAP funds instead to the Family Re-Housing Stabilization Program (FRSP), also known as Rapid Rehousing.
I submitted a disapproval resolution today, along with Chairman Mendelson, to bar the administration from using money that the Council budgeted for ERAP to repay money that they spent out of DC’s contingency funds on Rapid Rehousing. Rapid Rehousing is an important program, but we cannot pull that money from ERAP–another desperately needed program.
In the reprogramming request, the administration claimed that the Council “errantly budgeted” this funding for ERAP. This is false. The administration also claimed that if the Council doesn’t allocate $20.6 million from ERAP funding, they’ll have to evict families from rapid rehousing. This is false. The administration has two years to pay back the money they borrowed from the contingency funds to pay for FRSP. There is no need to exit any family from the program. The administration said that this was an emergency. That is false. The administration knew about the FRSP costs for months before the fiscal year ended, but never submitted a reprogramming request. Instead, they paid with contingency funds, waited until the last minute to file a reprogramming request, presented it as an emergency by claiming they’d have to evict people, and said the only solution is taking funding from ERAP.
In a letter my office received from the Mayor at 12:07 pm today, the administration described bureaucratic reasons why the Council must reprogram the $20.6 million in ERAP funding for Rapid Rehousing. I disagree with the Mayor’s contention because both rapid rehousing and emergency rental assistance are approved uses of the federal funds. However, even if ERAP funds have to be used to repay the contingency fund, the administration can take funds from another source. I have suggested a specific funding source to the administration.
Simply put, I believe this is bad governance, and I encourage my fellow councilmembers to support the disapproval resolution.